A reviews round-up of Noises Off starring Felicity Kendal at the Theatre Royal Bath, and then a UK tour.
A 40th anniversary production of Michael Frayn’s ever popular play-within-a-play farce, directed by Lindsay Posner, has opened at the Theatre Royal Bath before a national tour.
A stellar cast includes Felicity Kendal as Dotty Otley, Tracy-Ann Oberman as Belinda Blair, Matthew Kelly as Selsdon Mowbray, Alexander Hanson as Lloyd Dallas, Joseph Millson as Garry Lejeune, Sasha Frost as Brooke Ashton, Pepter Lunkhuse as Poppy Norton Taylor, Jonathan Coy as Fredrick Fellows and Hubert Burton as Tim.
The show is at Bath until 1 October 2002, and then goes to Richmond, Brighton and Cambridge.
Noises Off reviews
"Frayn’s exquisite farce-within-a-farce finds new humanity"
"Felicity Kendal, Tracy-Ann Oberman and especially Joseph Millson are comic gifts in this 40th anniversary version that fits our times almost too well"
"It’s not the first time Lindsay Posner has directed Frayn’s farce-within-a-farce and, in terms of laughs per minute, it’s not a patch on his 2011 production at The Old Vic (I’m smiling just remembering it). But there’s something about this thoughtful and compassionate take that feels more relevant and just that bit more real."
"The big laughs (and there are still lots) are largely left to the brilliant Joseph Millson, who plays the grandstanding lead actor Garry Lejeune. Millson bounces up the stairs with his shoelaces tied together: hilarious. He tumbles down the stairs: sublime. Tracy-Ann Oberman has a wonderful twinkle about her and wafts about the stage with a permanent air of mischief. They inject a little lightness into a production that wasn’t as funny as I’d anticipated – but was many other things instead. What a testament to Frayn that he can write a play with such a meticulous structure, that still manages to bend to the times in which it is performed."
"Felicity Kendal heads a cracking cast in this classy, hilarious revival"
"Whether or not we strictly need another production of Michael Frayn's farce, this staging at the Theatre Royal, Bath is a genuine delight"
"... Posner’s classy revival boasts a trump card in Felicity Kendal, pitch-perfect as the put-upon actress Dotty Otley, still giving it her all on stage amid a chaos of disappearing sardines, unruly telephones and a combustible behind-the-scenes love life."
"Farce, however, should act as a mirror to its proponents’ internal condition. Posner is less astute on this aspect, with the backstage infighting in Act II (taking place in silence, since the play is still going on out front) over-egging the knockabout comedy at the expense of a deeper sense of desperation."
"Stellar performances in a rollicking farce surely set to delight for another 40 years"
"The balance sheet is loaded positively from the start by the presence of Felicity Kendal, one of Bath’s favourite actors. She finds a touch of pathos, as well as an abundance of laughs, as forgetful former star Dotty Otley, now reduced to the role of housekeeper in Frayn’s farce-within-a-farce."
"But the main quality, and the validity, of Posner’s approach, is that although the play the woebegone actors are rehearsing in the first act – suitably titled "Nothing On" – is very much vintage Brian Rix, the chaotic hustle and bustle of the accident-prone players comes across as timeless. He brings great energy to the slapstick, along with a view that life’s farces are not just played out on stage."
"Glorious as ever"
"The whole thing is a love song to the stage and the high days of touring rep, and indeed to actors. For it is notable that for all the excellent jokes about actorishness in the rehearsal scene, none of the issues within the fictional company are the usual sneers about prestige or stardom and all-about-Eve-ery. Just ordinary love affairs. They are us, they are troupers, struggling with the props and stuck doors and slippery dropped sardines of life..."